Sunday, January 8, 2012

5 Essential Freelance Writing Resolutions

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Happy New Year!  I love this time of year.  We’ve got all the lovely blank pages of the calendar to fulfill our freelance dreams.  I’m imagining them filled with new clients, exciting projects, and fantastic surprises that I haven’t dared to imagine but that I’m secretly longing for.   

I’ve just returned from vacation, refreshed and excited to start consciously living my new year’s resolutions.  I say ‘consciously’ because these aren’t really new resolutions for me.  Over the past year, I’ve thought about these principles and tried to abide by them, but I never wrote them down.   

Which was dumb.

Writing down your resolutions and goals is as important as defining them in the first place.  Writing not only helps to shape your aims, but solidify them. It gives them body and weight. It gives them power.  They become both engrained in your subconscious and inscribed in the stars.  Even if you later forget about them, I believe that written words will continue to work for you.

(Example: last year, one of my goals was to have two editors contact me with assignments. I had no particular editors in mind.  I didn’t even have any solid relationships with magazine editors at the time. But it was something that I wanted to happen, so I wrote it down. I completely forgot about it until last August when an editor contacted me with a story idea.  And it happened again with a different editor just a few weeks ago in December.  Goal met.) 

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t just to discuss the importance of writing down your resolutions and goals, but to share my resolutions with you.  Resolutions and goals are words that are often used interchangeably but they have different meanings.  A goal is a specific objective to be attained. A resolution is the expression of your determination to do something. As freelancers, I think it’s important to write out both goals and resolutions.  I have captured my goals for this year in the business plan I’ve written for myself, but I am recording my resolutions here with you now:

In 2012, I resolve to:

            1.  Be Fearless
It is impossible to get anywhere as a freelance writer without breaking through your fear.  A week or so ago, I was dithering over a query that I wanted to send to a very high profile publication. I kept postponing hitting send because, well, I was afraid.  Afraid that it wasn’t good enough.  That it was too long.  That I didn’t have the right editor, blah, blah, blah.  Then I read an article in the New York Times about film director Dee Rees’s breakout hit “Pariah,” an amazing coming-of-age story about young black lesbian.

And I thought: Wow.

The director, herself a black lesbian, must have crashed through unimaginable fears, mental barriers and community disapproval to bring herself to write and create this film. What are my fears about sending out this simple pitch in comparison? Nothing.  I hit send without delay. 

This year, I resolve to keep my freelancing fears in perspective.

              2.  Learn
 No one’s ever called me a tech genius, nor is anyone likely to.  I’ve managed to set up simple blogs and have a very basic understanding of HMTL, and know how to apply SEO principles in my writing. Anything more tech-y than that, and I pretend that I don’t really need it or I pay someone to take care of it.  But as a writer today, I need to have more than a fleeting knowledge of technology.  

This year, I resolve to stare my technophobia in the face. 

            3.  Invest
I’m always surprised when small businesses balk at paying professional rates for copywriting services.  From my perspective it seems like such a sensible investment.  And yet, how many times have I glanced at some intriguing course, book, or seminar on writing or freelancing and thought: nah, too expensive?  Just as any entrepreneur must, we freelancers need to spend what it takes to stay on top of our game, market our services, and offer our clients first-rate work.  

This year, I won’t hesitate to invest in my business as needed.  

            4.  Press Some Flesh
How easy it is to sit in my little hidey hole (otherwise known as Starbucks) and conduct all my business networking via email or social media!  I use the fact that I’m an expat – and a mother – as an excuse to stay glued to my computer instead of picking up the phone or going out to meet real people. Totally lame.  Sure, I’m going to have to drink a lot of Red Bull (the energy drink, not the vodka) before hitting an evening networking event here in Paris, but why not?  It’s high time that I spent more effort getting to know the faces of my online communities – wherever they may be. Really, there’s nothing stopping me from attending a writer’s conference in NYC if I plan it well.  

This year, I resolve that people are going to see the face of the Expat Freelancer.

5. Believe 
Is there a freelancer out there who hasn't yet read "The Wealthy Freelancer"?   If you haven't, get thee to Amazon tout de suite.  I've read this book literally to tatters and one of my favorite chapters is the very first, which is called: “Master the Mental Game.”  Here the authors discuss developing the mental toughness every freelancer needs to survive the crests and valleys of our business. While they offer several practical tips and techniques, their number one message is this: Believe in yourself.  Believe in your business.  Believe in your success. You’ll never become a wealthy freelancer if you don’t believe that you can be.  

I love this.  It sounds new age and flighty, but it’s true.  How can anyone live out a dream without first believing the dream to be achievable? 

This year, I resolve to firmly believe that I will meet every goal on my New Year's list.

How about you? What resolutions would you add to this list?